But when it comes to connecting, finding a way to build warmth and trust with our kiddos, sometimes that can feel a little more overwhelming.
In our early days of parenting our two girls, I found myself leaning into the empowering and correcting part of this process, while leaving out perhaps the most critical piece - genuine connection in a way that disarmed fear and promoted attachment.
Now, some parents are just awesome at playing. My husband is a little more like this. He’s silly and playful and was pretty good at joining in whatever our kids were doing. But for me? Playing doesn’t come quite as easily.
I wanted to find a way to intentionally connect with our girls (3.5 and 5) at the time. So I started by thinking about what I loved when I was growing up - playing softball, putting on plays, and LOTS of family games. Even into adulthood, when my family gathers, we play games for hours at a time.
I began researching games online - through Instagram and Pinterest - and I discovered several games that were age-appropriate and actually FUN for everyone.
My husband, Dustin, and I are both pastors - a role that can be quite consuming and sometimes overwhelming. We had evenings meetings, Sunday morning obligations, and a fairly random schedule, but we knew we needed to start putting intentional family time on our list of weekly priorities. We’d been good at finding time to connect with our girls through our family dinners, morning routines, and bedtime rituals, but we really wanted to find some time every single Friday (after school) to connect.
The routine was pretty simple. Dustin and I would do our best to both go pick-up the girls from school/daycare, and then we’d all head to a local coffee shop. We’d bring a couple of games, buy the girls a treat or a special drink, and enjoy an hour or two of quality time together. We’d laugh and play, and of course sometimes, have to redirect behavior. With each roll of the dice, card drawn, or match made, we were growing closer as a family and establishing a tradition that we all began to cherish.
Now, a little over four years into our parenting journey, our life rhythms have changed a bit. During this last year, we decided to homeschool our girls to have more time with them, so we integrate games into our ongoing curriculum. We learn math, reading, and critical thinking skills, all while playing together.
As our girls get older, I’m sure our rhythms will change again, but I hope our love for playing games together is a tradition of connection that can stay with us through all seasons of life.
So, the next time you’re looking for a way to connect with your kids, grab a snack and try playing a game together. You can hit up a thrift store or borrow from a friend, or check out some of our favorites below!
Quixx (Family dice game, good for developing basic addition skills)
Cat Crimes (Critical thinking game where you try to figure out which cat commited the crime; can be played as a team game for cooperative play.)
Pengoloo (A more interesting version of a memory game, good for younger kids ages 3-7).
Eye Found It (Cooperative game good for visual learners)
Cadoo (Active game for the whole family. Can be adapted for younger children.)
Topple Chrome (Hands on game, good for developing impulse control and patience)
Snappy Dressers (Fast-paced game with many versions of play, good for 7 and up)
Spot It (Fast-paced game with many versions of play, junior versions available)
Ok Play (Simple tile game making five in a row, requires a little strategy, good for 7 and up)
Splendor (Made for older kids and adults, but simple enough concept for younger elementary.)
Ticket to Ride - First Journey (Simple concept, but longer game play. Good for 6 and up)
Christina Hite is one of the co-pastors at Imago Dei Church in Peoria, where she launched Surround - a foster care and adoption initiative that comes alongside agencies, families, and children in the local area. Christina is the proud mom of two chatty, kind-hearted, spunky girls who love people well and inspire her daily. Her favorite role in life is being wife to Dustin, whose gentle, faithful presence reminds her what God is like. Together, Christina and Dustin are TBRI Parent Trainers and lead a monthly Connection Group for other foster and adoptive parents in Peoria. You can follow Christina on Facebook and Instagram, or catch some more of her thoughts on her blog.